Writing “The End” on a manuscript is a luxurious feeling, followed quickly by exhaustion. Tons of anxiety and pressure fall from my shoulders, and I know I have finished another novel. It’s a bit sad because I’ve lived with these characters I love and admire, and then I end our relationship. If I’m writing a series, I’ll meet them again. But I killed some of those characters, and I’ll miss them too since it’s fun to write villains.
Often readers ask me when my next book will be out. I’m just as excited as they are to hear a new book is going to be out soon. However, each book represents weeks and months of research, writing, rewriting, and editing. I often go over chapters 25 or 30 times. Even when the book is finished, I’m still rereading and making small changes, kind of like an artist dabbing one more bit of paint on the canvas. This is why it takes me so long to publish.
Any writer will tell you writing “The End” is not really the end. Many post-writing chores await every author, some of them fun, some of them drudgery.
First, I send my manuscript off (it isn’t really a “book” yet, is it?) to a group of critique readers. These are people I trust to read my manuscript and give me feedback about what critics might say. For example, they tell me when they are “taken out” of the reading moment by something jarring—maybe a word or phrase. I often give them a set of questions to think about as they are reading.
Next, I send my manuscript to my freelance editor, Lourdes Venard. I know she will tear it apart, tell me to change entire chapters or move certain incidents, and fix errors and transitions so it will work much better. But she does this all lovingly. Yes, I am smiling as I type that last sentence. With my first novel, when I barely knew her, she had me rewrite two chapters from a different point of view and omit some chapters I thought were sensational. The second novel had fewer of those frightening incidents. But I know I can trust her judgment, and this makes all the difference. She has never led me astray, and she is an expert on genres, editing, and writing. She is totally honest with me, even when I don’t want to hear it. This is what makes her such a great editor.
The third post-writing step is to decide on the “Acknowledgements.” This is always difficult. I keep a list as I’m writing the manuscript, but I am always afraid I will forget someone. People are so generous with their time and expertise.
Next, I must write a one-page, single-spaced, synopsis of the entire plot. Now here is where people will say, “But you wrote Cliffs Notes where you had to shrink everything. Why can’t you do this easily?” I can’t. This is the hardest part of the after events. It involves much swearing and hand wringing. I would rather write the entire novel over again than to try to compress 280 pages into one page.
Shrinking my own writing is next to impossible. Every word is gold, right? It is the opposite of everything I taught to reluctant high school students who thought one paragraph was an essay. It goes against my usual mode of operation where I expand instead of contract. But I must do it. The synopsis might be choppy and lack transitions, but every word counts.
Now I’m done with the after events except to double check for typos and errors and then send it off to publishers.
Next step is to WAIT.
While I am waiting, I look around my house and realize someone has created chaos and piles of papers, books, paperclips, and file folders that need to be organized and put away. In a way, it’s a nice metaphor for finishing a project, filing it away, and moving on to the next one.